; Supermarket Serenade: Almond (Paste) Joy

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Almond (Paste) Joy

School is winding down for the kids and each week there seems to be yet another event that I have to bake for. This week it's the senior social at my daughter's school where they invite grandparents and local seniors in for a tour of the school, entertainment by the school band and light refreshments. I made a cookie that is among my favorites at the moment-Almond Thumbprints with Chocolate Drizzle. The cookies include almond paste, a favorite ingredient of mine...in fact, I probably should have included it in my must haves in the pantry.
Almond paste is found in the supermarket usually in the baked goods section and you usually have your choice of either the canned variety made by Solo or a boxed variety made by Odense.
A while back I remember seeing almond paste made by Betty Crocker, but I have not seen that in a very long time. The Odense paste comes in a 7 ounce package while the Solo brand offers an 8 ounce can-just be sure to check your recipe so you don't end up using the wrong amount.
Perhaps it's a brand loyalty thing but I usually use the Solo one simply because that's the one my mother always used and most of the recipes I seem to make with almond paste call for 8 ounces.

I grew up in New York and became accustomed to, if not spoiled by, a wide selection of bakeries. The highlight of every family party for my brother’s and I were the bakery fresh cookies brought by friends and family in cardboard boxes tied up gift style with blue and white striped string. The cookies were always buttery, flavorful and tender crisp. In Northern Connecticut, where I live now with my own family, bakeries are scarce. "Corner bakery shop" cookies are such a wonderful memory for me but for my children their only experience with bakery style cookies is whatever we can get from our local Stop and Shop or Shaws. So with childhood memories as an inspiration a melt in your mouth butter cookie base, a rich almond filling and a sweet chocolate drizzle became my version of “just as good as(if not better than) bakery” cookies.

Almond Thumbprints with Chocolate Drizzle

3/4 pound (3 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 (8 ounce) can almond paste
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla

2 ounce good quality semi-sweet chocolate

1. In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, combine the softened butter, sugar and vanilla. In another bowl, sift together the flour and the salt. Gradually mix the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a large disc; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

2. While dough is chilling, prepare the filling. In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, break up the almond paste and combine with the confectioner’s sugar. Add the egg whites and vanilla, beating until combined; cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

4. Roll the cookie dough into 1 inch balls and place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Press a large indentation in the center of each cookie. Spoon or pipe a generous tablespoonful of the filling into each indentation.

5. Bake the cookies for 15-20 minutes or until lightly golden on the edges. Let cool for 1 minute before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

6. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a simmering pot of water until smooth. Using a knife or a spoon drizzle the chocolate over the cooled cookies.

Yield: about 4 1/2 dozen cookies


Prudy said...

Oh my! Heavenly cookies! I've got a can of almond paste in my cupboard, too.

Catherine Wilkinson said...

Very helpful information! I always just stare at the Solo at the grocery store and wonder what to do! Great recipe, especially for bringing to get togethers. When I was a kid, my great grand mothers would faint dead away if anybody bought bakery goods! I was spoiled, and wish I would have paid my attention to their bakery lessons!

Lisa said...

These look great! I know what you mean about bakeries. I grew up in north Jersey where we had a ton of corner bakeries and now where I live there are very few. Some of the ones where I grew up have also closed. I guess this is due to the convenience of bakeries in the supersize supermarkets.

Emiline said...

These look decadent! I love almond paste...here it is really expensive - I think around $5 for a can, so I hardly ever buy it. :(

Veronica said...

Thanks, Prudy...I hope you like them!

Catherine, I don't know...there's something about a NY bakery that sometimes makes it seem as special as homemade! Maybe it was because of the way they were wrapped up-it made them seem like a present.

Lisa, yes, NJ has a ton of great bakeries...you know what I mean-a really good bakery can sometimes be as tasty as homemade.

Emiline, I know what you mean...almond paste can be expensive. I find that if I buy some in January or February (after the holidays) I can get it cheaper and it lasts a long time. Thanks for stopping in!!